02.08.13

Legislative Update from Senator Richard Burr

This week, I introduced the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), a bill to improve America's preparedness and response capabilities for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. Whether these threats occur naturally, like pandemic flu, or are the result of an intentional attack, we must be prepared to quickly and effectively respond to all threats, including having necessary, life-saving medical countermeasures.

The threats facing our nation are serious and very real, and we must address them accordingly. The American people expect us to do all that we can to prevent an attack and, if one should occur, be fully prepared to respond, including having safe and effective medical countermeasures readily available. While key progress has been made since PAHPA was signed into law in 2006, more work remains to be done. This legislation redoubles our efforts to protect the American people by strengthening our existing programs and making targeted improvements in areas in which we know we must do better, including ensuring that our nation's medical countermeasure enterprise reflects and is prepared to respond to modern-day threats. To read more about this bill, click here, or follow this link to a story from the Winston-Salem Journal.

On Thursday, I joined Senators Orrin Hatch, Amy Klobuchar and others in introducing legislation to repeal the medical device tax that was included in Obamacare. Our bill, the Medical Device Access and Innovation Protection Act, will repeal a provision in Obamacare that requires manufacturers of medical devices - from surgical tools to bed pans - to pay a 2.3 percent excise tax hike will hinder job creation and hurt the overall delivery of quality patient care. If we are serious about lowering the cost and improving the quality of health care, it makes no sense to impose a tax on medical devices. Additionally, this tax jeopardizes the jobs of thousands of Americans including almost 8,000 North Carolinians employed directly by the medical technology industry and many more who work in indirectly related positions.

The medical device tax not only stifles innovation and our nation's competitiveness, but it will cost us jobs in North Carolina and across our nation at a time when our economy continues to struggle. Repealing this job-killing medical device tax will help ensure America remains the world leader in the research and development of life-saving products and upholds our promise to patients in North Carolina and across our nation to continue to innovate on their behalf.

This week saw more confirmation hearings on the President's nominees to positions within his Administration, and on Thursday I attended the Intelligence Committee's hearing on the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the CIA. I questioned Mr. Brennan about many issues of concern including the issue of leaks of classified information and the lack of willingness on the part of the Administration to share relevant documents related to the Benghazi attacks with the Committee. For more on this hearing, click here.

Also this week, I was disappointed in an announcement by the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that they are backing off plans to create a single computer system to integrate electronic medical records for troops and veterans. The fact that VA and DoD would reverse course on a plan they have been working towards for years that would create a coordinated electronic health record system between the two agencies is concerning and disappointing. I am concerned about what this means for our nation's service members and veterans, particularly those who will be transitioning from active duty service to civilian life in the near future. We owe it to our nation's defenders to do all we can to care for them and provide the most effective, efficient service we can, and coordination and communication between these two agencies is absolutely vital.

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